The Worst Job in the World
Lolita stood six foot tall, had white blond hair and she played the bagpipes.
I never could understand how she’d got interested in the bagpipes, let alone learnt to play them and then enjoy it so much she even took them traveling with her.
Her height wasn’t that unusual for a Scandinavian woman, but her musical preferences were rare for anyone. Even the Scottish.
As if she didn’t already stand out enough, Lolita also had acid blue eyes and a golden tan from the Israeli sunshine. Then, just in case anyone failed to notice her, she only ever dressed in a skin tight vest top and denim cut offs which accentuated her exceedingly long legs. They were cut off short so it wasn’t just her legs that got exposure but also the bottom of her bottom.
If that didn’t get all eyes on her she could always play the bagpipes which ensured everyone in a one mile radius knew about her.
Despite her comely name and appearance, Lolita was scary.
She told me she’d been teased as a child because Lolita means oral sex in Denmark where she hailed from. It’s an unfortunate name choice in many countries where the word “Lolita” means a sexually precocious young girl and doubly unfortunate in Denmark.
Lolita and I met on a Kibbutz in Israel. I’d tell you the name but those kibbutzniks were scary too. I don’t want them to track me down so let’s just call it Kibbutz Hellon.
I’d just graduated from London University with a degree in English and French which left me practically unemployable. Fine by me as I didn’t want to work any way. I just wanted to bum round the world.
So why I chose to spend my summer working on a kibbutz in Israel I do not know but I was up for the cultural experience. Keen to immerse myself in the Israeli culture, live with Israelis and eat Israeli food for six months. In exchange for that experience I was more than willing to work and avail them of my strong work ethic.
The kibbutz was huge and I envisaged myself in the creche entertaining the cute kids and bonding with my co-workers.
All meals would be provided so no cooking of course, then there was a huge free pool and several beaches near by so, outside work hours, I should be able to relax and enjoy Israel and its people.
I’ve been cursed with a fanciful imagination and optimistic outlook which have oft been my downfall so the reality of kibbutz life hit me hard.
There were about 2,000 residents on the kibbutz. In case you haven’t heard the term kibbutz it’s a uniquely Israeli concept which is like a commune where people all live together, though in separate houses, and work together for the communal good of all. Most kibbutzes focus their industry on farming.
Many travelers I know have had great experiences in kibbutzes but sadly that was not the case for me and I didn’t last long at Kibbutz Hellon.
I stayed seven nights and during that time I had three different jobs.
My first job was to serve food in the canteen.
Easy peasy, I thought. I’d worked in pubs and restaurants in London. I was looking forward to interacting with the kibbutzniks over some yummy food and getting to know them a bit.
But they didn’t feel the same way about me.
The food I served was never good enough. The schnitzels were over-cooked. The flat bread dry. The felafel soggy.
No one ever cracked a smile and no one ever talked to me except to complain. Which was often.
The other volunteers agreed the work was bad but we decided to cheer ourselves up with a trip to the pool.
The outdoor leisure area was a lovely scene with groups of women sitting chatting while their kids played nearby or splashed around in the water.
But when our little group of volunteers turned up silence fell. People stared resentfully at us then looked pointedly away. Only the insects buzzed and the message was clear. We never returned to the pool.
Admittedly, apart from me and my travel companion, we volunteers were an odd bunch. Lolita was the least of my worries compared to Tomas, a gangly German youth who trailed me everywhere saying he wanted to be my Teutonic knight and still haunts my memories.
After two days I switched jobs electing to work behind the scenes in the kitchen as a washer upper. I’m a sensitive soul and don’t enjoy being verbally abused while at work. Or anywhere.
Washing up was another job none of the locals did. The industrial kitchen was like the inside of a giant dishwasher. The heat and steam phenomenal. An inferno in the already hot Mediterranean summer. My job was to stack the clean plates that whizzed by on a rotating conveyor belt.
I lasted two days on that too, before seeking advice from Lolita, the most experienced volunteer on the kibbutz.
“Come work with me in the fields,” she said.
“It is much better than working inside. And you start work at 4am then finish at 10am, so you have the whole day free after that.”
But free to do what? Play the bagpipes I suppose.
Being a seasoned beach bum I had already visited the beach. I could handle the fact that it wasn’t a scenic beach. There was sand, sea and plenty of room to lay down your towel but this wasn’t a place where you could be lulled by the sound of the waves gently breaking on the shore.
It’s hard to relax on a beach when the soundtrack is fighter planes whizzing by followed by a distant boom as they off load their bombs on the Lebanon.
So, with the relaxation opportunities in Israel blown apart, job satisfaction was key to making my kibbutz stay enjoyable.
Lolita was right. Working in the fields was much better than kitchen work. We rode off in a truck as 3.30am to distant fields where rosy lychees ripened on a thousand trees.
Our job was to lift the crates of lychees which had been picked the day before and load them into a special chamber where they were treated to kill bugs. This bleached them from deep pink to grey, so the lychees were then plunged them in a potent mixture of chemicals to restore their color.
Then we sorted them, sitting on wooden crates and throwing grade A lychees one way and grade B lychees the other way.
Me and Lolita were the only two kibbutz volunteers working the lychee fields.
The other lychee workers were poorly paid Lebanese men who schlepped over the Israeli border each day to make a few piastres. They were a friendly bunch but, since their english was even more limited than my arabic, we didn’t have a language in common so they communicated the only way they knew how – through gestures. The main gesture was seeing if they could bounce a lychee off my forehead when I wasn’t looking.
In case you haven’t experienced being bombarded with lychees they have a rough skin (see picture up top) and it hurts.
After three days I’d had enough and so had my travel companion, who’d stayed on in the kitchen preferring verbal abuse in a place hotter, steamier and meaner than hell rather than getting up early.
So we did what anyone in their right mind would do. We ran away.
Well, not properly, we did tell the kibbutz manager we were leaving before we high-tailed it, traveling round Israel to see Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea.
Then we nipped over the Egyptian border to the Sinai where we weaved friendship bands and hair braids on the beach in Dahab.
It was wonderfully hippy.
I’d visited Dahab before and found it to be a quiet spot off the beaten track where you could live cheaply on a gorgeous beach. There was no electricity back then but this time electricity was slowly becoming commonplace as were the Israli soldiers on holiday and looking, like us, for a cheap place to hang out.
But the vibe was different now and there was even one bar oddly named Napoleons where I met my future husband, the Mucho Man.
The worst job in the world ended happily ever after for me but I often wonder what became of Lolita.
She was planning to go back to Denmark and enroll in the Danish police school. She probably did just that but, in my mind, she’s still there in Israel, living at the kibbutz picking lychees and playing the bagpipes.
With half her bottom hanging out of those denim cut offs of course.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and where was it?
I stayed on an organic health retreat in Australia that was tough. It was much smaller than the Kibbutz you describe and rather than being set up as a communal style of living, it was a business.
The clients and the workers were all wonderful people and committed to health, but the owners seemed to be in it only for the money.
I could have loved it there. The setting was beautiful and the healthy meals were delicious. I went on walks with the clients and explored the region on foot.
The problem was, I had no job description, no set hours and no pay. The managers had me do everything from cleaning the kitchen to supervising recovering alcoholics, to desiging websites and all for board and a small allowance. I sometimes sat with clients until 10pm.
I lasted three months, much longer than some of the others who came there to work.
Thanks for your interesting article.
That sounds like a life changing experience. You did well to stick it out and must have learned some amazing skills. Good that you had some fun people to hang out with even though the owners were sadly lacking.
I stuck out one terrible job for 6 months when I was 18. The pay was a joke (think pennies) the work long and grueling and they were super mean and unappreciative.
I hate quitting but sometimes it’s for the best.
I laughed when I read that you were 18. I was almost 50. I thought I would have been taken more seriously by then but I did learn a lot and it really was life changing.
I lasted three months in a job where I was utterly bored and totally under-utilised, treated more like a gofer than someone with a whole stack of life skills and experience.
I also spent three months working at a cemetery in Sydney (in the admin section, of course), which was quite an insight into the area of death and funerals.
Once you experience these kinds of jobs, it can only be uphill from there! It puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it?
Haha, yes, I guess we’ve all had bad jobs. The cemetery job sounds deathly dull.
I’ve decided I can put up with boring jobs and hard labor but if they people are awful too that’s the kiss of death:)
I think my worst job ever was “detasseling corn”. I grew up in the farm state of Iowa and it is a common job for teens or young adults in the summer. Detasseling is done by walking down rows of corn and reaching up to pull the tassels off the top. This is done to prevent pollination in the production of seed corn.
We would have to ride a bus over an hour to a field. The work was hot, dusty, and exhausting. Then drive over an hour back. I don’t remember a shower ever being as rewarding as after detasseling corn.
I remember my mother put ice cream in a thermos and froze it the night before. I would take it along and right about lunch time it would start to thaw. I actually had the nerve to sit there and eat my cold refreshing ice cream in front of all the other hot miserable people in my group. It was so refreshing!!!
One annoying thing about the job were the “suckers”. Suckers were shorter off shoots of the corn plant that grow down lower but can have a tassel. So while you are looking up high to reach for most of the tassels you were also suppose to watch out for the “suckers”, which were easy to miss. Sometimes the work “leader” would walk down your row to see how good of a job you are doing. Once the leader came up behind me with and arm load full of tassels that I had missed to show me what a bad job I was doing. Ugg!
I only lasted a week at that job………..I hated it. But I do think I tried it two different summers before I vowed to never do it again.
Lol, that’s a funny story. You sound like such a tassel and corn growing expert I can’t believe you only did the job for a week. I’d give you a PhD in it! The icecream sounds best. Am I mean to hope my kids have to do some hard jobs when they’re getting older? It is a good learning process:)
My first job in the US was in a hospital in a working class neighborhood on the “wrong side of the tracks.” I was trained to give patients breathing treatments and liked the job well enough because I enjoyed working with the patients.
My co-workers were a tight-knit group and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t like me and made my life miserable by ignoring me and giving me the worst patients and making snide remarks about my showing off by reading books during slow times.
Understanding dawned when I heard from a newly arrived worker (with whom I got along very well) that the patients all liked me: “that cute Dutch girl with her cute accent and her interesting stories.” (I had just come back from spending 1.5 years in Kenya, Africa.)
No wonder my co-workers couldn’t stand me. They must have gotten sick hearing about that “cute Dutch girl.”
It was the first and last time in my life I had to deal with people in my environment treating me with such dislike and contempt. It was awful.
Hi Miss F,
Ah jealousy reared its ugly head. I guess your exciting life and passion for reading highlighted that theirs were somewhat lacking:(
I hope the bad experience made you stronger though:)
You should write a book ‘Whatever Happened to Lolita’ I really want to know haha Funny story…I have a similar one…Going to the Galapagos on a yacht…sounds fantastic, right? haha It wasn’t! But it’s one of the best experiences of my life x My worst job however was picking up monkey poo in cages…I also lasted only a week haha
You are a fantastic story teller. :)
I would love to travel. It does sound frightful, though.
This is a very nice story. You have a great potential to e writer. Lolita might just have the worst job but at least her job’s a decent one. Anyways, thank you very much for sharing this wonderful article.
I didn’t know that’s what Lolita meant in Danish. I was born in Denmark and can well visualize Lolita, the Viking. I almost signed up for a Kibbutz like you but then ended up doing a “stage” at the EEC in Brussels. Just work and lots of “fonctionaires” bureaucrats, drinking duty free booze.
I think I blocked out my worst jobs. I think my worst jobs involved working with my least favorite people. And as Peaceful Warrior teaches us, “those that are the toughest to love, need it the most.”
My favorite job comes to mind. Although, I don’t think they had it in mind when they created the job. It was one of those crazy Summer jobs at a school that involved racing golf carts across school grounds, taking naps on the high jump mats, and just doing crazy kid stuff all Summer long (and somehow fitting in the work required.)
Oh gosh that was so funny – I dont think that I would have lasted as long as you did :)
The worst jobs that I have ever had was working in the Meat Works – watching the “Warm” cows being cut up and then having to pack them into boxes. I had three different tables to look after – with three different parts of the cow to box up. Each box had to weigh a certain weight and I had to work fast. I lasted three months – still not sure how I managed that!
The other job that I did not like was packing strawberries into a box. Sounds easy – wrong! They have to be packed a certain way and if you were not friends with the boss then your punnets would be sent back to repack again! My punnets were always sent back – and you got paid per punnet. Lasted about three weeks in that job!
Wonder what did happen to Lolita?
You have such a wonderful way with words that I saw myself right there in the sweltering heat of the kitchen in the kibbutz. What a lovely story, even though your experiences sound hellish!
When I graduated (English and Italian, hello!), I boarded a streetcar that circles the inner city of Belgrade and rode it all the way around, bawling my eyes out. I did not want to go back to my home town, start working at my old high school, and marry an engineer. BORING!
Instead I married an American and found the worst job ever. We lived with his sister and her boyfriend, who tended to the family tree farm. I could not drive the tree loader, so my job was to wrap the dirt-encased roots of the freshly excavated evergreens with burlap and fasten it around with nails, so that it would not get dry during the transport. Eight hours of that for $4.00 per hour, and I could not run away:(
Every day after work I would take shower and rub the lotion into my hands to no avail. My fingers were bleeding, mu skin was calloused and cracked, so far away from the hands of a former pianist.
It was horrible, but it is an experience that managed to make me stronger. Plus, it adds so much flavor to my stories! That’s why we are writers!
Oh, I am so happy I have found you!
Great article. My worst job was as a hostess. Way too close to the sex industry for my liking. I quit after one night!
Brilliantly written – I laughed out loud several times. I’ve had so many “worst jobs ever” and known so many Lolitas, but the part that most struck home was your fanciful optimism :) When I get really excited about a new idea, my husband has taken to saying, “Ok, it’s a good first impression. But let’s just wait and see all our cards….” We win some, we lose some, but at least you got one hell of a story out of this one.
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I just came over to this post from your latest post – I have learned 3 things:
1 I am glad I never worked in a Kibbutz! ha ha
2 I will be very wary of eating middle eastern lychees…far out, how many chemical treatments does it take to make it look bug free and pink? Scary!
3 I am reminded that I loved Dahab. It was one of the most relaxing few days of my life. What a great place. Great food, great vibe. So casual and hippy. Loved it.
Worst job of my life? Hmmmm. I got paid well to work in a wheat silo. can’t complain re the pay (at 17) BUT the day we accidentally overloaded a silo was not fun – I was having my lunch at ground level to see wheat spilling out of the top of the silo – like wheat rain! I told them before going to lunch that they had 5 metres in the cell left…and oops! 3 days of shovelling up wheat from around the conveyor belts followed. Lost 5kg…but the money was good!
I’ve had two kinds of worst jobs. The first was b-o-r-i-n-g. It was a summer job while I was in college in 1974. I worked for our neighbor who was in charge of research at the Veterans Administration Hospital drug treatment center in Philadelphia (USA). My job was to chase after drug counselors (mostly recovering addicts themselves) to turn in paperwork that made sense. “No, a client cannot be ‘out of contact’ and be receiving a daily dose of methadone at the same time.” The other part of the job was administering paper and pencil psychological tests to addicts on the first day they came in. They invariably came in high and usually “nodded off”, pencil in hand, during the test. I did a lot of clock watching.
My second worst job was as a young lawyer when I had to represent parents accused of neglecting or abusing their children. It was in a civil court where the County child services agency was trying to figure out what services to provide to try to keep the family together. I left that job when I was 9 months pregnant with my first child and had to attend a family service plan meeting with my client who was dripping cigarette ashes on her newborn’s face. Her other 5 children were already in foster care. My most useful action was to tell her (when she asked) that “yes” I thought it was a good idea for her to get her tubes tied.
Now, I’m a recovering lawyer and blogger (mostly travel) and I’m a happy camper!